NATURE VALLEY CLASSIC
Ash Barty over Julia Georges
Julia Georges looked sharp as she downed Petra Martic in the semis with a barrage of winners, a close-to-dominant serve, and a limited number of unforced errors, to win a match that on another day at another time could have gone the other way. But the German was too steady, too strong, and frankly, too spectacular to lose.
She now plays her doubles partner, and if the Aussie keeps truckin as she has been for the past month or so, there’s not much Georges can do to stop the Barty Party. Ash Barty has been the biggest surprise on the WTA Tour this year, not because she’s winning matches and tournaments, but that with a win in this match, she will take over the No. 1 ranking from Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Quite a climb from the woman from Down Under, who, just two years ago gave up tennis to play top-level professional cricket on the island-nation. Barty has run through four opponents here without losing a set, and she stands to become the second Australian to be top-ranked in the world (Evonne Goolagong Cawley was the first) since the WTA rankings were initiated.
It’s not a forgone conclusion that Barty will win, as Georges is a great player and is not afraid of playing her own doubles partner, against whom she is 1-1. In fact, it could be argued that a loss here might benefit Barty, in that it would take any pressure away from carrying a gaudy win streak into Wimbledon, but what’s a little more pressure when you’re going into the biggest tournament in the world with the No. 1 ranking? I’m picking Barty, and I want to be at that party!
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Belinda Bencic over Sofia Kenin
It’s so nice to see Sofia Kenin, a native of Moscow who lives in South Florida, win matches that just last year appeared just a bit out of her reach. But her French Open win over the close-to-retirement Serena Williams has given her a shot of confidence that she needed to put her over the top, and she must now be considered one of the elite players on the WTA Tour. At this point she is the fifth-ranked American, after Amanda Anisimova, Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins and Madison Keys, and her climb up the ladder has been slow, but steady. With a nice Wimbledon showing the 20-year-old stands a good chance to move up two more spots, after just 17-year-old Anisimova and the inconsistent Stephens, an enviable climb, indeed.
But here against Belinda Bencic, I think she’s going to meet her match. Bencic dismissed Anisimova in the quarters, giving up only four games, and then took out top seed Angie Kerber, after winning a second set tiebreaker that changed the momentum of that match. Bencic is hot, she’s fiery, and she’s nothing if not confident after those two wins this week. This might be a fun match to watch, but I think it could also be anti-climactic, as the new Swiss Miss will take home this title. After all, if you’re going to be Roger Federer’s mixed-doubles partner, you better have some of your own titles to boast about.